China’s Anti-Satellite Program: They’re Learning

Discussion in 'China' started by Yusuf, Jul 16, 2013.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Arms control opponents repeatedly and consistently use the difficulty in defining what constitutes an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon as a reason not to engage in ASAT arms control efforts. Broadly defined, an ASAT weapon can include anything that can destroy or disable a satellite, including by kinetic impact, ground-based or satellite equipped lasers, or, as the Soviets insisted in the 1970’s, a spacecraft like the Space Shuttle which maneuvers and has a robotic arm theoretically capable of plucking a satellite out of the heavens and capturing it. Some of these are clearly dedicated ASAT weapons with no other real use; others offer ASAT “capabilities” though perhaps not as its primary purpose. Clearly, however, under any definition the 2007 Chinese intercept and destruction of one of its own moribund satellites at about 850 km above the earth constituted the testing of a hit-to-kill ASAT weapon. China is rapidly learning both the technology and the political nuance necessary to develop an ASAT capability while avoiding international condemnation.


    Joan Johnson-Freese
    China suffered global condemnation after that 2007 test, primarily in conjunction with the over 3000 pieces of debris irresponsibly created by the kinetic impact that will dangerously linger in and travel through highly-populated low earth orbits for decades. Lesson 1 for China: Space debris does not distinguish between space assets. The debris created by their ASAT test put everyone’s space assets at risk, including Chinese assets. Ironically, the U.S. government has on several occasions provided collision alerts to China, so they could avoid debris they created. Therefore, creation of space debris is to be avoided.

    The United States most loudly protested the test, but even it had to be careful about the language of the protest so as not to create potential inhibitions on its own ASAT aspirations, and to minimize the backlash regarding the do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do nature of its criticism of China. The U.S., after all, developed ASAT capabilities in the 1970’s, though it stopped overtly testing after recognizing the potential damage caused by the debris created. Furthermore, the Chinese have long contended that missile defense technology is basically the same as ASAT technology, a contention with which most American analysts concur and missile defense proponents ignore.

    After China conducted its kinetic test in 2007, the United States used missile defense technology in 2008 to destroy one of its own failing spy satellites, USA 193. Operation Burnt Frost, as the U.S. effort was called, received relatively little press coverage in the United States beyond space and security policy trade publications. In those publications, however, the operation was debated as a genuinely needed effort to destroy the satellite and with it the potentially toxic hydrazine onboard from reaching earth as it deorbited, or a tit-for-tat demonstration of U.S. ASAT capabilities. The U.S. destroyed the satellite at an altitude of about 250 km, low enough that most debris harmlessly burned up as it reentered the atmosphere, and received little international blowback beyond protests from China and Russia.

    Hence the conundrum of dual-use technology – valuable to both the civil and military communities, and difficult to decipher as either offensive or defensive – makes a definitive determination of intent nearly impossible. As a high percentage of space technology is dual use, speculation regarding intent is often the best that can be done. Given the low level of political trust between the U.S. and China, both sides often assume the worst.

    Operation Burnt Frost confirmed not only the symbiotic nature of missile defense and ASAT technology, but that missile defense tests largely escape the international condemnation of ASAT tests. Also, kinetic impacts conducted at low altitudes where the debris largely burns up as it falls through the atmosphere, or on a ballistic target to minimize debris creation, are politically acceptable. So the second lesson China learned regarding how to develop ASAT capabilities and avoid political condemnation was to not call testing its capabilities ASAT tests, and conduct impact tests in such a way as to not create long-lived orbital debris.

    China is not the only country to have learned these lessons. India, which appears determined to develop an ASAT capability, has been conducting missile defense cum ASAT intercept attempts since 2006. India seems to be suffering from a Non-Proliferation Treaty hangover, where it was excluded from nuclear status. India now seems determined to possess an ASAT capability before arms control provisions potentially again separate countries into ASAT have and have-nots.

    In terms of technology, China is advancing on the learning curve.

    China conducted what it now called missile defense tests, though de facto ASAT capabilities tests, in January 2010 and January 2013. Those tests used the same technology as in 2007, but without intercepting a target and so without creating debris. While there had been speculation in January 2013 that China might attempt to strike a target in medium earth orbit (MEO) to show that vulnerability of US Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites that did not occur. Not only is China developing its own navigational satellite system, potentially at risk from debris in MEO, experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists have shown that “significantly reducing the capability of the U.S. GPS system would take a large-scale and well-coordinated attack, so much so that targeting these satellites may not be an effective strategy.”

    On May 13, 2013, China changed its rhetoric, and demonstrated that it could reach much targets at much higher altitudes than previously. China stated that it had launched a sub-orbital rocket to carry a science payload to study the earth’s magnetosphere. Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who follows Chinese launches, confirmed that the rocket had reached at least 10,000 km, possibly much higher, the highest suborbital launch since 1976. He further stated that most scientific suborbital launches, as the Chinese launch was officially posited to be, are at most to approximately 1,500 km. Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush, a Pentagon spokesperson, stated about the Chinese launch, “we tracked several objects during the flight but did not observe the insertion of any objects into space and no objects associated with this launch remain in space.” U.S. defense officials are concerned that the same technology could be used to destroy U.S. space assets at higher altitudes than previously.

    Whatever China’s real intent, the veil of dual use technology provides plausible deniability, just as it did for the United States with Operation Burnt Frost. Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on June 3, requesting more information on the May 13 Chinese launch. The questions to Secretary Hagel included: 1) Was the launch part of China’s antisatellite program and 2) If the launch was part of China’s antisatellite program, why did China attempt to hide disguise it as a scientific experiment? There are no conclusive answers to either. Speculation regarding intent is the best that can be offered in addressing the first question. Concerning the second question, it seems clear that the Chinese have learned, from the U.S. and other countries, to use the political deniability of dual use technology to their advantage.

    The United States knew that China was intending to test an ASAT prior to its 2007 test. However, it chose to remain silent, and protest later. Keeping quiet and protesting and requesting information afterward has been the U.S. approach since 2007 as well.

    Brian Weeden at the Secure World Foundation suggests that while doing so allows the U.S. to protect is intelligence sources and methods, and potentially bolster its own ASAT capabilities, it also allows those opposed to the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts to use launches as a political weapon, and potentially sends a signal to Beijing that ASAT tests are acceptable as long as debris is not created. Weeden wants the Administration to be more transparent about China’s ASAT program, in terms of the launch site location, type of missile used, and altitude reached, toward leveraging international opinion against the irresponsibility of testing such systems.

    Georgetown Law School Professor David Koplow has an article forthcoming that suggests building on -- basically reinterpreting -- current legal norms as an incremental approach to halting ASAT testing.

    Clearly, the keeping silent approach has not been successful if the U.S. goal is to get the Chinese to cease ASAT testing, under any and all names. But as long as the U.S. – and other countries -- continues to develop, test, and deploy missile defense that is unlikely to happen, given the dual use nature of the technology. That being the case, incremental arms control management seems a much more realistic approach – assuming that those countries with potential ASAT capabilities actually want the testing of these technologies to stop. That, however, increasingly seems a big assumption.

    http://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/chinas-anti-satellite-program-theyre-learning/
     
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  3. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    We need to do ASAT, ASAP, if it is not done, then it is criminal intent on part of Govt, they are playing with India's security.
     
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  4. mahesh

    mahesh Regular Member

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    i have saw a interview with with top isro person, in which the interviewer asks about anti satellite program, where he replies with the existing technology isro can quickly build the rockets needed to achieve the goals given by the government.
     
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  5. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    There is no doubt indian can do anti-satellite with ENOUGH money and ENOUGH time! The only question is how they define "Quickly".
    Inidan scientists always have a trend to understate the "difficulty" of their project before it begins.
    Knocking down a satellite requires far more than just a rocket.
     
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  6. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    You need powerful radars and guidance systems to hit satellites. India doesn't have the domestic technology to build them.
     
  7. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Duh! India has been tracking satellites for aged. In 1998 we beat US spy satellites by tracking them and working when the US sats were not in range.

    Most basic, we we didn't know how to track, how would we place our satellite in orbit and control them?

    For India, its really is a rocket away. Read the report properly. It mentions India as well.
     
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  8. mahesh

    mahesh Regular Member

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    define ROCKET according to you.
     
  9. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Knowing when a satellite is overhead vs the exact position and anticipated orbit of a satellite is fairly different. Plus, most military satellites have the ability to change their orbits and orbital velocities as well.
     
  10. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    Quite long time ago, people already can track flying missile and calculate the time it hit the target, but no one can intercept it until 10 years ago.
    The precision requirement of puting your satellite in orbit is too primitive comparing control a missile to hit a satellite!



    Your test is not mid-course missile interception. Certainly, you can borrow some technologies from it, but basically it is different class!
     
  11. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Ok we don't have ASAT capabilities :)
     
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  12. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    Lol, you guys in panda land are funny, we launch a satellite and we cant track it................... :rofl:

    this is the list of what we have send for others, this dont even include our own satellite launches and our satellites launched by others

    It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. No worries, just click here to download the PDF file.



    So tracking is not much a problem for us.
     
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  13. DivineHeretic

    DivineHeretic Senior Member Senior Member

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    I agree with your assertion that the two are comprehensively different. You could use a simole telescope to know that a satellite is present overhead.

    But you must also agree that a radar system, in particular the LRTR/Swordfish/GreenPine radar, which can detect and track a cricket ball at 600Km (note that now the range has been increased to 1200-1500 KM) will be able to extrapolate the exact position of the satellite at different time intervals without cooking its circuits.

    Just to inform you but the LRTR is also used to track debris on LEO and warn ISRO before satellite launches. And debris tends to be much smaller than sats.

    You are right that most, if not all satellites can change orbits. But here you would be talking of changing the direction of the satelite and not the change of altitude from Earth. The hydrazine powered thruster do not have enough energy to jump a satellite from one altitude to another.

    And you should know that the speed of the satellitle is a function of its altitude from the surface of the Earth. It cannot be changed without changing the altitude of the satellite.

    And btw, if you did either, we'd have already achieved the goal of denying satellite observation of our position, and when the satellite does come back, it will again be tracked. The satellite can only mauevre so many times before its tank runs out.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  14. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) provides mission support to low-earth orbit satellites as well as launch vehicle missions. ISTRAC has its headquarters and a multi-mission Spacecraft Control Centre at Bangalore. It has a network of ground stations at Bangalore, Lucknow, Sriharikota, Port Blair and Thiruvananthapuram in India besides stations at Mauritius, Bearslake (Russia), Brunei and Biak (Indonesia).

    ISTRAC activities are organised into network operations, network augmentation, mission operation and spacecraft health monitoring, communications and computers and control centre facilities and development projects. Programme planning and reliability groups support ISTRAC activities.

    The Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN), commissioned during the year 2008, at Byalalu village near Bangalore forms the Ground segment for providing deep space support for India's prestigious and first Lunar mission, the Chandrayaan-1.The technical facilities in IDSN include a 32 metre Deep Space Antenna, an 18 metre Antenna Terminal, an 11 metre Antenna Terminal, Indian Space Science Data Centre (ISSDC) and a Technical Services complex.

    The IDSN is the first of its kind project in the country that provides ISRO the capability to handle deep space missions of India and also provides cross support to other deep space missions of external space agencies because of its inter-operable features and state-of-the-art capabilities.

    Welcome To ISRO :: Tracking Facility

    so we can easily track satellites using our tracking facility and with other they can be tracked through out the earth.
     
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  15. DivineHeretic

    DivineHeretic Senior Member Senior Member

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    The US and the USSR were conducting BMD tests in the 80s. Infact in the Gulf War the Patriot batteries stationed in Israel intercepted several IRAQI Scuds. You could question the accuracy and the success rate, but you cannot declare that such capability did not exist prior to 2003.

    Satellites are probably the easier of objects to track in space, especially the ones in higer orbit. This is because even though they are travelling quite fast compared to a person on the Earth, the satellite covers less degrees per km of motion. Allow me to explain properly.

    The equation of arc for is given by L=RTan(₩) where ₩ is the angle charted by the arc and R is the distance from the surface of the Earth.



    Thus for an object flying at 6000m, he'd have to move 6000m to cover an angle of 45 degrees wrt an observer on the ground. At Mach 2, it would take an AC 9.1 secs to traverse this distance, and hopefully move out of the tracking cone.

    But for a satellite moving at 600km, he'd have to move 600km to cover the same angle of 45 deg. Now, even with a speed of 20 km/sec, it will take 30 secs. Thus more time for tracking, meaning easier tracking.

    Its basic geometry really.
     
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  16. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    You have surprised me @t_co. While @no smoking is completely on-the-mark, you are awfully off-the-mark this time. Looks like you haven't followed developments in the last decade close enough.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  17. mahesh

    mahesh Regular Member

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    few times ISRO satellite launch was delayed dew to possibilities of colliding with space junk (debris), there are just around 20% of space artificial objects in use i.e in the form of satellites and stations. rest include dead satellites and debris left off while launching them which are floating in space. satellites can even be tracked with good domestic telescopes with automated motors and trackers in them.
    so i guess Isro have enough equipments to find and track needed satellites.

    and about the rocket/ missile to intercept satellites, satellites are not like missiles to dodge or perform maneuver in no vacuum region with just thrusters. yes, using thrusters will also reduce satellite life as there will be no fuel to lift the satellite periodically due to gravity.

    ofcourse i agree that if a inbound missile is detected concerned agency would activate thrusters wildly before impact. but that's all they could do. unless spy satellite is equipped with defence mechanism. or weapons along with it. (and if world comes to know if a satellite has weapon along it, there will be a crisis, about using it for offensive purposes )

    the real point comes into play only when ISRO have that kind of rocket in development atleast, till then we are in a back step in this feild.but the ability to built that kind of missile looks convincing very much in near future.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
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  18. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    We have all the building block for ASAT. I would love to see satellite tracking ship with ISRO.
     
  19. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    Basically, the idea at that time is to use nuclear explosive to destroy another missile, which is completely different to today.

    That was tactical missile defence with a target flying far slower and lower. Comparing mid-course anti-missile defence to them is like middle school vs primary school.

    Theoretically yes; pratically NO!
     
  20. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    You are talking about the guys who have made you learn how to walk and run. If you remove the binds over your eyes you will find this.

    Soviet Union
    USA
    from Wiki.
    Both did successful test in 1980s and you guys only did the same in 2007.

    Ok China is mahan, 'jai ho Chini bhai'.
     
  21. cobra commando

    cobra commando Tharki regiment Veteran Member Senior Member

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